Stay organized with collections Save and categorize content based on your preferences.

Cotral: Using real-time data to help people plan their bus journeys efficiently and with ease

About Cotral

Cotral S.p.A. transports more than 70 million people across the Lazio region per year. With its 1,600-strong vehicle fleet, the company aims to reduce carbon emissions while meeting the needs of its passengers through innovative, user-focused mobility solutions.

Industries: Transportation
Location: Italy

Tell us your challenge. We're here to help.

Contact us

About Web Geo Services

Web Geo Services provides expertise in location intelligence and ROI optimization to help international brands deploy Google Maps Platform.

With Google Maps Platform, Cotral is providing 200,000 daily passengers with accurate real-time travel information while reducing both costs and environmental impact.

Results

  • Helps adjust number of buses on the road to real-time traffic situations and passenger needs
  • Cuts carbon emissions by reducing the number of runs and maintenance tours through optimized itineraries
  • Reduced costs by 30% through efficient route planning

Enables 33% boost in customer satisfaction

With many people leaving major cities in search of more affordable housing, more space and an all-round higher quality of life, the need for innovative suburban and rural mobility services is more pressing than ever. Intelligent, user-focused public transport is shown to boost local development and environmental sustainability by encouraging people to live and work locally while discouraging private car use. Something Paolo Castagno, head of the Technical Area Organizational Unit at Cotral S.p.A, is well aware of.

“Our focus has shifted considerably in recent years,” he says, “We’re now concentrating on providing information to users in a way that would have been unimaginable only a decade ago”. The Italian public company provides transport services to around 70 million passengers per year in the Lazio region. “The people who ride our buses are mainly commuters and students. Regular users, basically, rather than tourists,” Paolo explains, “Our aim is to ensure their journeys are as convenient and well planned as possible.”

“We’re a small team and needed something that would be both easy to implement and to customize to our specific needs. Google Maps Platform was an obvious choice for us.”

Paolo Castagno, Technical Area Organizational Unit head , Cotral S.p.A

With the help of Google Cloud Premier Partner Web Geo Services, Cotral began working with Google Maps Platform in 2016 to offer passengers increasingly accurate, real-time travel information while minimizing both costs and environmental impact.

Helping users plan their day with precise, real-time information

Before implementing the Google Maps Platform solution, Cotral provided static timetables with identical travel information, whatever the season or time of day. “According to our old website, the travel time between Rome and Viterbo was the same on Sunday afternoons and Monday mornings, which obviously wasn’t realistic,” Paolo says. The company decided to develop a solution that would use real-time data to help its 200,000 daily passengers get where they need to go, on time and in comfort.

The result was a website and app based on the Maps JavaScript API to help passengers plan and manage their bus rides by locating vehicles and the most convenient place to buy tickets or renew their monthly plan. “By using Google Maps, we can now accurately locate our buses and provide precise travel information to people who need to get to work or school on time,” Paolo says, “People now get to the bus stop and know that they have exactly nine minutes to wait, just enough time to pop into the closest store and buy a ticket. They’re also aware of precisely how long their journey will take.”

“Optimizing routes with the Distance Matrix API helps us to minimize both costs and emissions. One trip obviously uses less gas, and pollutes less, than four trips.”

Paolo Castagno, Technical Area Organizational Unit head , Cotral S.p.A

“We’re a small team and needed something that would be both easy to implement and to customize to our specific needs. Google Maps Platform was an obvious choice for us,” Paolo continues.

A real-time overview of the Cotral network has enabled the company to take their customer service to the next level. “At one point, we realized that some of our long-term commuters knew our routes better than we did!” Paolo explains, “We’ve now developed a tool based on Maps data that enables our information center employees to provide callers with detailed information on the real-time traffic situation around a given area.” The company’s investment has paid off: a 2018 survey showed a 33% increase in customer satisfaction compared to previous years.

Striving for sustainability while keeping costs low

Cotral is committed to reducing CO2 emissions by offering a viable alternative to private cars, the main alternative to public transport companies in Italy. “Our main strength as a mobility provider is that we go just about everywhere,” Paolo says, “whether it’s to the top of a mountain or the smallest village in Lazio. We aim to connect each and every one of our users, even those in the most far-flung spots, with the major exchange points around the region”. Providing timely, reliable services is essential to changing people’s attitudes towards public transport: “Our users have come to expect highly detailed information when it comes to bus times. But location data is also really important to us as a team. During rush hour for example, we need to be able to know when to add more buses in order to transport more people in comfort.”

The company also aims to limit emissions by optimizing routes for both buses and personnel. Cotral manages 48 bus depots distributed around the Lazio region which require regular maintenance visits. An internal application uses the Distance Matrix API to suggest the most efficient itineraries for maintenance staff, taking into account traffic conditions and other factors such as depot size and length of visit to significantly reduce the amount of time spent on the road. “Optimizing routes with the Distance Matrix API helps us to minimize both costs and emissions,” Paolo says. “One trip obviously uses less gas, and pollutes less, than four trips.”

Precise monitoring of bus routes not only enables the company to transport more passengers in better conditions, but also to limit overheads. “It may not sound like much, but one mile saved on a given route is significant when it’s done ten times a day, 365 days a year,” Paolo explains. The company estimates that it has saved close to 30% per kilometer over the past two years.

Looking toward increasingly personalized passenger services

A new Cotral app will launch in the first quarter of 2021. “Our new app will include user registration in order to provide customized route suggestions as well as real-time notifications about any delays or cancellations,” Paolo explains. “For example, we’ll be able to instantly notify passengers about any changes that may affect their daily commute and enable them to plan their journey accordingly.”

“Google Maps has enabled us to really get to know our passengers and make their daily commute a more pleasant and convenient experience.”

Paolo Castagno, Technical Area Organizational Unit head , Cotral S.p.A

Paolo is looking forward to developing further Google Maps-based tools over the months to come. “Google Maps is the most widely-used mapping solution out there, which makes it relatively straightforward to find developers who know the platform well. What’s more, passengers like the fact that our app has a look and feel that they’re familiar with. We also really appreciate the amount of available online documentation.” A new monitoring and control room, which will enable Cotral to work with a variety of different data services, is in the pipeline. “I’d like to be able to integrate traffic police reports, news of temporary road closures or events that may disrupt traffic, and be able to redesign routes in real time,” he explains. Cotral plans to launch a mobile app that will support newly hired or reassigned drivers by showing them the correct routes for scheduled trips.

“We’re continually working to optimize our timetables, routes, and operations,” Paolo says, “Google Maps has enabled us to really get to know our passengers and make their daily commute a more pleasant and convenient experience.”

Tell us your challenge. We're here to help.

Contact us

About Cotral

Cotral S.p.A. transports more than 70 million people across the Lazio region per year. With its 1,600-strong vehicle fleet, the company aims to reduce carbon emissions while meeting the needs of its passengers through innovative, user-focused mobility solutions.

Industries: Transportation
Location: Italy

About Web Geo Services

Web Geo Services provides expertise in location intelligence and ROI optimization to help international brands deploy Google Maps Platform.